I can also call these "the muffins that set off my smoke alarm". In my defense I followed the recipe baking instructions exactly - oven at 450 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes. I checked them just before 20 minutes and the oven was smoky. Not a good sign, especially when my smoke alarms are uber sensitive and it took several minutes of frantically fanning a dish towel at the smoky air and throwing open a window and 2 French doors to clear the smoke. Fortunately I took them out when they were only starting to think about scorching and were merely on the slightly overdone side. That's the cheddar cheese protesting the high temp. I don't know whether my oven was exceptionally strong or 450 degrees is simply too hot when baking anything with cheese (I think it's the latter).
It's not uncommon for muffins to be baked at a high temperature since that's what gives them that initially "spring" and high muffin top to activate the leavening in the baking powder. But when you have cheese in them, some of which is at or near the top of the muffin cavity, it might be inevitable that they'll burn if you don't take them out sooner rather than later.
I made half this recipe since I didn't need that many muffins. The key to tender muffins is to handle them as little as possible so always mix muffin batter with a fork, mix your dry ingredients first then add the wet ingredients (already mixed together) all at once. I had to add a little more milk than the recipe called for as the batter still had flour pockets and I didn't want to mix them in to the point that the batter became overmixed.
For the most part, I did like these muffins....once I took off the over-toasted bits. The outside was crunchy and the inside had a nice soft but chewy texture you can get from a good cheese bread. They're not as fragile or soft as the cheddar biscuits from Red Lobster or as buttery but they had a good flavor. Next time I make them, I'm going to lower the oven temp to 400 degrees and check them early and often. Properly made, I think they'd make a nice bread accompaniment to a meal.
2 ½ cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
2 large eggs
¾ cup milk
One 12-cavity muffin pan with paper liners
1. Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 450˚F. (You might want to play it safe and put it at 400 degrees instead.)
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
3. Cut the butter into 12 pieces, add to the dry ingredients, and rub in until the mixture resembles fine meal. Stir in the cheese.
4. Whisk the eggs into the milk and stir into the dry ingredients to form a very soft batter. Do not overmix or the muffins will be tough.
5. Spoon the batter evenly into the lined pan.
6. Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden and firm. Do not overbake or they will be dry.